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How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

How to Understand the Russian Smile: When and Why Its Appropriate

People often wonder why Russians smile so little. It seems strange to many people who expect a smile for every little thing, especially when working in the service industries. Everyone smiles at you and it is taken as a sign of acceptance, politeness, and is expected or even demanded. We often judge the quality of the service on a smile! Perhaps we are all smiling too often?

Russians have different beliefs about smiling

The Russians have a different idea about smiling and in many ways, it is more sincere and direct. The bottom line is that you never smile unless there is a genuine reason to do so. Here are some tips to understand when and how Russians put this into practice. This should help if you are planning a visit to Russia so that you understand what is really going on. It should also give you a better idea of understanding Russian people when you meet them.

Smiles are not necessary at work

Russians take work seriously and they feel there is no need to smile at passport control because they are getting on with their job. They do not know you, so why should they smile? Russian school children are often reprimanded for smiling by their teachers as it is interpreted as idling. Russian kids often hear their teacher saying, “What are you smiling at? Write!”

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Smiles are not used when driving

A British journalist living in Siberia was puzzled that Russians never acknowledged with a smile or thank you, when motorists stopped to let them cross the street. A Russian acquaintance asked him, “Why should you thank someone for not killing you?”

Smiles are used sparingly

If you go around Russia smiling at everyone and everything, Russians will probably think that you are a fool! You must have a good reason to smile, otherwise you may appear as being rather naïve and idiotic.

“The laugh without reason – is the sign of stupidity.” – Russian proverb

Smiles are important

Russians are at first impressed when they visit Europe or the USA because everyone is smiling at them! After a while, the awful truth sinks in because they realize there is nothing at all behind those smiles. No genuine friendship or real sincerity. They think all those smiles are wasted.

Smiles are a precious commodity

A Russian smiles when there is a real reason to do so. It may reflect a particularly happy moment, great fortune, or good news. They really do have something to smile about and smiles are highly valued.

Smiles must be genuine

When Russians see you smiling at them they immediately become uneasy. It is seen as a rather suspicious because they do not know you or they do not have any reason to rejoice. It can even be a negative feature and they may even think you are laughing at them. That is why they do not smile back!

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Smiles are not a sign of happiness

Russians do not feel that smiles are a genuine measure of how sullen or gloomy a person may feel. It goes much deeper than that. Judging a person’s character on a smile is really rather superficial.

Smiles are reserved for personal affection and friendship

Russians will smile at their friends and use it to express genuine affection or friendship. When you smile at a Russian and you have never met them, they may be puzzled and start wondering where or if you have met before.

Smiles must always be in context

You may think that an encouraging smile is priceless when someone is ill or facing enormous difficulties. Russians view these smiles as inappropriate in that sort of context. They are just out of place.

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Russian smiles are usually genuine, sincere and reserved for moments of affection, friendship and celebrations. Their smiles are telling you something important.

Let’s face it. Smiling may be interpreted and understood in a myriad of ways depending on cultural differences. Look at the British who have the so-called “stiff upper lip” or the Japanese who tend to cover their mouths when smiling and laughing. Psychologists have identified sixteen different types of smiles- you can see the full list here. Far too complicated – give me a genuine Russian smile any day!

“You can only hold a smile for so long, after that it’s just teeth.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Featured photo credit: Veni/Flickr via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

If I was a super hero I’d want my super power to be the ability to motivate everyone around me. Think of how many problems you could solve just by being able to motivate people towards their goals. You wouldn’t be frustrated by lazy co-workers. You wouldn’t be mad at your partner for wasting the weekend in front of the TV. Also, the more people around you are motivated toward their dreams, the more you can capitalize off their successes.

Being able to motivate people is key to your success at work, at home, and in the future because no one can achieve anything alone. We all need the help of others.

So, how to motivate people? Here are 7 ways to motivate others even you can do.

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1. Listen

Most people start out trying to motivate someone by giving them a lengthy speech, but this rarely works because motivation has to start inside others. The best way to motivate others is to start by listening to what they want to do. Find out what the person’s goals and dreams are. If it’s something you want to encourage, then continue through these steps.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are the best way to figure out what someone’s dreams are. If you can’t think of anything to ask, start with, “What have you always wanted to do?”

“Why do you want to do that?”

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“What makes you so excited about it?”

“How long has that been your dream?”

You need this information the help you with the following steps.

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3. Encourage

This is the most important step, because starting a dream is scary. People are so scared they will fail or look stupid, many never try to reach their goals, so this is where you come in. You must encourage them. Say things like, “I think you will be great at that.” Better yet, say, “I think your skills in X will help you succeed.” For example if you have a friend who wants to own a pet store, say, “You are so great with animals, I think you will be excellent at running a pet store.”

4. Ask About What the First Step Will Be

After you’ve encouraged them, find how they will start. If they don’t know, you can make suggestions, but it’s better to let the person figure out the first step themselves so they can be committed to the process.

5. Dream

This is the most fun step, because you can dream about success. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your business took off, and you didn’t have to work at that job you hate?” By allowing others to dream, you solidify the motivation in place and connect their dreams to a future reality.

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6. Ask How You Can Help

Most of the time, others won’t need anything from you, but it’s always good to offer. Just letting the person know you’re there will help motivate them to start. And, who knows, maybe your skills can help.

7. Follow Up

Periodically, over the course of the next year, ask them how their goal is going. This way you can find out what progress has been made. You may need to do the seven steps again, or they may need motivation in another area of their life.

Final Thoughts

By following these seven steps, you’ll be able to encourage the people around you to achieve their dreams and goals. In return, you’ll be more passionate about getting to your goals, you’ll be surrounded by successful people, and others will want to help you reach your dreams …

Oh, and you’ll become a motivational super hero. Time to get a cape!

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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